June 15 , 2010


An Essay on Comedy


Henri Bergson — Laughter
George Meredith — An Essay on Comedy
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Introduction & Appendix on The Meanings of Comedy by Wylie Sypher

Laughter is a mystery—a mystery which defines man. Brought together in this volume are two classic studies of the nature of laughter and comedy. The great French philosopher Henri Bergson develops, in "Laughter," a profound psychological and philisophic theory of the main springs of comedy—a theory closely related to the doctrine of the élan vital. In his "Essay on Comedy," the English novelist George Meredith discusses the varieties of the comic experience and the social and moral function of comedy.
Together these two major theories go far toward clarifying the mystery of laughter. Wylie Sypher, in his richly documented supplementary essay, places the views of Bergson and Meredith in a large context of speculation on the nature of comedy. The essay reviews important statements of such thinkers as Aristotle, Hobbes, Baudelaire, Freud, Cornford, and others. It serves to give further significance to Bergson and Meredith and to the meaning of comedy itself.

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